“Homelessness is associated with severe poverty and is a social determinant of mental health. To be deemed statutorily homeless a household must have become unintentionally homeless and must be considered to be in priority need. As such, statutorily homeless households contain some of the most vulnerable and needy members of our communities. Being homeless can also delay discharge from hospital, so lengthening stays”.
Homelessness has been identified as a vulnerable group. There are social causes of homelessness, such as a lack of affordable housing, poverty and unemployment; and life events which cause individuals to become homeless or at risk of being rendered homeless.
• Between January-December 2017; it was reported that Wakefield made 635 decisions on homeless applications, 231 of which were accepted for a full duty. 123 of the full duty acceptances had dependent children within the household.
• In 2015/16, the rate of decisions made on homeless applications for Wakefield was lower than the national average (5.0 per 1,000 households) at 4.3 per 1,000 households.
• In 2016/17, the rate of homeless young people in Wakefield aged 16-24 was 0.39 per 1,000 population.
The demographics of the rough sleeping population in Wakefield has changed in recent years; significant work has and is being done with people being successfully reconnected and accommodated via a number of different service providers, including Housing Needs Service (HNS), Wakefield District Housing (WDH) and Community Awareness Programme (CAP). Wakefield Council are working with other external partners to tackle rough sleeping. More information can be found here
Table 1 below shows the total applicant households found to be eligible for assistance, unintentionally homeless and in priority need during the quarter, by priority need category, for the Wakefield population.
The Wakefield data suggests an annual increase on the total number of Wakefield residents submitting applications. The number of applicants with dependent children has also increased year on year, whilst the total accepted applicants with a priority need is greater in Q1 2018, compared with Q1 2017.
The below table demonstrates the current position in Wakefield in relation to our Yorkshire and Humber neighbours across several of the homeless indicators. Wakefield is currently significantly better than the England average for many homeless measures (those indicators coloured green).
You can click on the “trends” option below to explore the trends in the various measures.
Source: Public Health England
It is thought that the life expectancy of homeless populations is significantly lower than those who are not. Homeless people suffer largely the same conditions as the general population, but experience health inequalities more often and more severely.
Many of the complex health problems experienced by rough sleepers are directly caused or exacerbated by a lack of shelter and warmth. People who are deemed as homeless fail to have access to appropriate health care, including the management of long-term conditions, preventative care, routine screening and continuity of care.
Homeless populations are also linked with those suffering from a range of health problems including substance misuse, physical and/or mental disabilities. Whilst some aspects of poor health are attributable to being at risk of homelessness; it is found that substance misuse and health problems can be the underlying result of an individual or group becoming homeless.
Homelessness can just be a phase in a person’s life due to their personal circumstances. However, for some people, repeat homelessness becomes a cycle particularly for those who struggle to maintain stable and satisfactory accommodation due to substance misuse problems, mental health issues or physical disabilities.
Other vulnerable groups who are considered at risk of homelessness, include: ex-offenders (those recently released from prison), migrants, and those who experience domestic violence in their place of residence, may also need assistance for:
- Anti-Social Behavior (ASB)
- Street drinking
- Aggressively begging
- Appearing to be at risk of domestic abuse or exploitation
- Diagnosed with Mental Health issues/has suspected Mental Health issues
- Alcohol or substance abuse issues, and
The provision of timely and appropriate support provided by respective stakeholders and agencies, can be an essential part of reducing the risk of repeat homelessness.
The Housing Needs Service (HNS)
The HNS focus on intervening at an earlier stage to try and prevent homelessness and work more intensively with service users on trying to achieve housing options and solutions to avoid housing crisis or homelessness. They also provide advice, assistance and support to prevent those at risk of homelessness.
The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017
The Homeless Reduction Act 2017 contains the biggest change in homelessness legislation since the introduction of the Homeless Persons Act in 1977. The new act places significant new duties on the council in relation to anyone threatened with homelessness. The Housing Needs Service (HNS) has been designed to meet these new responsibilities when they were introduced and came into force during April 2018.
HNS helps people at risk to prevent rough sleeping. Service users are provided with temporary accommodation, subject to individual circumstances, and meeting various criteria prior to and during assessment.
A person can be at risk and rendered homeless purely by their inadequate living conditions and exposure to domestic abuse. Relief duty is done on a priority need basis; if a tenant is served notice; the landlord has a 56 day period to take action. The HNS works with different agencies, including CAP and Wakefield Together, as a means of taking preventative action to establish whether a duty is owed. If a person cannot carry on living in their home, and have nowhere else that it is reasonable for them to stay, the Housing Needs Team will consider their circumstances under homelessness law.
Shelter helps millions of people every year struggling with bad housing or homelessness through advice, support and legal services via face-to-face, online and by telephone.
Homelessness Legislation (aka Homeless Law)
The Homelessness Legislation is a summary of the homelessness law and the duties, powers and obligations on housing authorities and others towards people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. More information can be found here